When women’s basketball head coach Tina Langley took over last year, she was expected to begin a long rebuilding process for a team that had not had a winning record since 2011. In just her second season, she has led the Owls to a 17-12 regular season record and the No. 10 seed in the Conference USA tournament.
This past week, the Owls completed their regular season with a win over Marshall University and a loss to Western Kentucky University. Rice took on the Thundering Herd Thursday night at Tudor Fieldhouse and won 84-74. Sophomore forward Nicole Iademarco led the Owls in scoring with 25 points, including four 3-pointers. After trailing at the half, Rice outscored Marshall 31-19 in the third quarter and never relinquished the lead. According to Langley, the team excelled in all aspects of the game in the victory.
“[We] passed the ball well, shot well and defended well,” Langley said. “I was really pleased with how we performed as a unit tonight; it was a great team win.”
On Saturday, Rice hosted the conference leader, Western Kentucky University. The visitors took a three-point lead into halftime, then expanded that advantage to eight points at the end of the third quarter. The Owls, however, did not go away quietly. In the final minute, a fastbreak layup by junior guard Shani Rainey cut the Western Kentucky lead to 75-74. Rice did not complete the comeback, though, and lost 80-75. Despite the loss, Rice proved it can hang with the best C-USA has to offer heading into the tournament.
Rice will take on the No.7 seeded University of Texas, San Antonio in the first round of the tournament. In their only matchup of the regular season, the Owls defeated the Roadrunners 66-61 on the road behind 22 points from Rainey. The Roadrunners finished the season 14-15 and 10-8 in C-USA. They are led by junior Loryn Goodwin, recently named the Conference Newcomer of the Year after averaging 17.9 points in her first season at UTSA. Against Rice, she was held to just 12 points on 4-for-14 shooting.
On Rice’s side, the team will have a different look from when it last played UTSA. The Owls relied heavily on senior forward Jasmine Goodwine throughout the year, but she missed the matchup in San Antonio. Goodwine led the team in minutes and put up 12.0 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. Late in the season, however, she missed time with an injury. Goodwine returned in the win over Marshall and put up 13 points, six rebounds and four assists. Langley said she is thrilled to have Goodwine ready for the postseason.
“Everybody’s really happy she is here,” Langley said. “We are really enjoying her being here with us again.”
If Rice wins its opening game, it will advance to take on No. 2 seeded Middle Tennessee State University. In their only matchup of the year, the Blue Raiders defeated the Owls 71-61 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. When asked about the tournament as a whole, though, Langley said the team was going to take it one game at a time and only focus on the next opponent.
The Owls’ tournament opener is scheduled for Wednesday, March 8 at 6:30 p.m. in Birmingham, Alabama.